Between the iconic British and Irish Lions Tour of New Zealand and the England international squad’s summer tour, rugby fever is inescapable this summer. But as well as being a thrilling sport to watch on the international stage, rugby is also a sport which, when played from a young age, offers a multitude of benefits, and participation levels amongst youngsters across the UK continues to grow.
Craig Foster, Community Manager at London based rugby union club Harlequins, is the brains behind the hugely successful Harlequins Rugby Camp programme. Since its inception in 2014, the initiative has encouraged more than 4,900 boys and girls between the age of 6 and 18 to give rugby a try.
Here, Foster shares some of the key reasons why parents should consider getting their children out of the house and onto the rugby pitch during the summer holidays this year.
Fly-half or flanker – they’ll make friends
Creating a new circle of friends can be a fantastic benefit of team sports, as training together gives kids the opportunity to connect with, and be motivated by, others. “Engaging in a team sport is a fantastic way to take kids out of their comfort zone, and help them make new friends that they may have never otherwise met” says Foster. “Parents often tell me about the strong bonds their kids develop with other children they’ve met on the field, and these friendships continue well after the summer finishes.”
On and Off field, their confidence will soar
“We hear feedback from parents constantly that their children have discovered a new-found self-confidence after taking part in a rugby camp or joining a junior team” says Foster. “Working with a group on the field can help kids become more comfortable speaking in front of people, and more confident making new friends. It’s often the kids that arrive the quietest who end up as the strongest leaders on the field!”
Scrums help reduce stress
Channelling focus into a high-energy sport like rugby can also allow children to work through any obstacles they face at school or home. Foster explains that “Playing sport provides a great opportunity for kids to focus solely on the game, their team, and the task at hand – rather than worrying about any other causes of concern they may have.”
Mistakes are molehills, not mountains!
As most parents will attest to, pre-teens can be easily distressed by the thought of making a mistake, especially in front of a group of people. Involvement in team sports provides a safe space for kids to make mistakes and learn from them, as errors are inevitable on the playing field. “Making mistakes in a supportive team environment gives young people the chance to build resilience, which will help them throughout their lives” explains Foster. “Across all levels of the club, when a player makes a mistake and learns from it, they come back better than ever.”
Team drills teach great skills
Whatever your age there’s no feeling like mastering a new skill and, after a few days of ball-handling, tackle technique, and space execution drills your young one will be on top of the world celebrating everything they’ve mastered. Whatever their starting skill level, playing under the watchful eye of a qualified coach will teach kids new skills that they’ll be dying to show off at home and in the schoolyard.
Sport supports studying
“Being part of a sports team requires you to be organised, disciplined, and accountable for your actions” explains Foster. “A good coach will help kids understand that rugby players aren’t just selected for their playing ability but for their all-round commitment, effort and discipline, whether that is demonstrated on or off the rugby pitch. I’ve seen first-hand how hearing this from a third party they respect, such as a coach, can really drive this message home for kids.”
The referee’s decision is final (just like mum’s!)
Involvement in team sports can be a valuable way to teach kids respect for authority, as they quickly learn that what the referee says, goes! “Everyone that plays for Harlequins, whether it be as a camp participant or a fully-fledged senior player, learns to play with the Club’s values which includes showing respect for their team-mates, coaches and referees” says Foster. “There is no place for a temper tantrum on the rugby pitch, or once they head home!”
Anything boys can do, girls can do too
Women’s rugby is on the up and with the announcement of an all-new Women’s competition earlier this year, it’s the perfect time for girls to get involved in the sport. Crashing ‘the boy’s game’ in the playground can be intimidating, even for the most athletic young girl however, and so summer rugby camps can offer an unintimidating environment for girls to try the sport without any pressure.. Who knows? Your little girl could be the next captain of the ‘Red Roses’.
It’s a safe way to get started
Rest assured mums and dads – despite the tackles you see on TV, you can feel comfortable with your child playing rugby. “We work hard to enlist the very best coaching staff who are experienced in working with children to bring out the best of their abilities as well as being adept at tailoring tasks to various skill levels to ensure all children are safe, challenged and encouraged” Foster comments. When children begin playing, it’s not about contact or ferocity, it’s about keeping fit, working as a team, learning new skills and taking on the positive values that go hand in hand with the sport of rugby. Parents should, however, warns Foster, ensure that – if they are looking to sign their children up to a summer rugby camp – they choose one which is in line with age grade guidelines designed by the RFU, rugby’s governing body: “This ensures that all activities are age appropriate, and enjoyable, for all participants, giving them a completely safe opportunity to give rugby a go”.
Rugby camp is cheaper than childcare!
As fun as the school holidays are for kids, they can be a stressful time for working parents. The Harlequins summer camp costs just £99 for three days, keeping kids entertained from 9am-3:30pm. As a bonus you’re unlikely to hear any bedtime protests during the camp – kids will be keen to hit the hay after their tiring days!
Harlequins Summer Camps run at various locations throughout the UK during July and August. For more information about your nearest camp, visit http://www.quins.co.uk or contact the team on: firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0208 410 6048